Interview with Sheena Haug

Feb 03, 2011

How and why did you get involved in Design?
My father designed sets, so theatre runs in the family. I used to follow my father around and “help”… It gave me the space to dream that I could too.
Briefly describe your design process.
I read the script entirely first, covering it in coffee and post-it notes with ideas. Then I’ll research and read the text more closely. When I meet with a director or other designers, I like having something prepared – rough sketches, research material, even swatches. It gives us a spring board to work from. 
From there, I do more finalized costume renderings that the costumes are based on. There are measurements, shopping, fittings and alterations… and hopefully a very happy opening night.
How true are the final costumes to the ideas you have immediately after reading the play?
They can be exact, or quite different. You can get married to the ideas you have initially – but it’s always more important for things to work than to be clever.  I think the richest work comes from collaboration. As the production moves forward, you find different solutions. (One of my favourites is finding costume pieces on sale).
What is your relationship with the director, actors, playwright and other designers?

We are all a team in the production of the show. Negotiation is important. I love brainstorming and working out ideas with other artists. I’m lucky that I am able to claim some of these people as friends.
Describe a memorable, funny, or cringe worthy experience as a costume designer.
There is nothing worse than being in the audience when things don’t work… When quick changes are long; pants explode; wigs or hats or mustaches fall off….And having to sit in the audience, wanting to fix it.  Thank goodness for dress rehearsal.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about costume design?
Costumes are not designed in a vacuum. They are a response to the script and collaboration with the director and other designers. Costumes aren’t always as glamorous as fashion, because you’re always designing for specific characters. You dress an actor from their head to their toes, and that includes underwear, shoes, along with whatever else you can dream up.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

To be fair, most people who know me aren’t surprised any more.
Is there a style that defines your work or a signature – something that invariably shows up?
I think it is important to be sensitive to the text; it is where the ideas spring from. I love kitsch, but it doesn’t suit every show. I am sure that there are all sorts of Sheena-isms in the shows I work on, even if there are no Groucho Marx glasses.
What, in your opinion, is the greatest attribute a designer can have?
I think it’s actually a combination; flexibility while maintaining strength of vision. A sense of humour is an asset.